Wine with Wings and other Trends for Oenophiles

Wine’s lineage stretches back over 6,000 years, a particularly long legacy that struck me a few years ago during a visit to the Greek island of Crete.
I recall standing inside the Temple of Knossos, staring down at a 4,000-year old wine-crushing stone. Not much has changed in how grapes are fermented and turned into wine. How we consume said wine is another matter. What wine trends prophesy our collective future libation consumption?

Premium Wine in Cans

Canned wine might seem tedious. After all, wine has been sold in cans since before anyone reading this was born. And who wants the soda-pop sound of a can of wine being opened during your romantic dinner? Though trending, it’s nothing new. The first canned wines began appearing in the mid-1930s, then intermittently disappeared and reappeared again over the decades. The problem was one of acidity eating away at the metal, and the can imparting a metallic taste to the wine, which was cheap bulk quality to begin with. Canning fine wine didn’t take off until recently, when the inner linings of cans stopped transferring off-flavors, canned wine had lost its stigma and premium wine producers started paying attention.

Phil Markert supervises liquor sales for Vons, Albertsons and Pavilions, whose South Pasadena store offers 1,100 different wines. The recently remodeled Vons on Colorado in Pasadena and the Arcadia store both offer more than 2,000 wines, plus a wine cellar, daily wine tastings and a full-service staff. Wine in cans, he says, will not go away any time soon. “This is a trend that is happening in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The biggest driver is a younger consumer who wants packaging that’s more environmentally friendly but also wants convenience,” he says.

And wineries are quickly jumping onboard. “It had become apparent to me that people wanted to be able to include consciously made wines in more areas of their life where bottles are a limiting factor,” Faith Armstrong Foster, owner and winemaker at Sonoma-based Onward and Farmstrong Wines tells Arroyo Monthly. The wines she sells in cans are the same exact vintages she’s been putting in bottles for years; she expanded into canning when she recognized the need for a more portable package, for beach days, hiking, camping, poolside, picnics, movie theaters, etc. “However, this is also offered as my small format, so really anyone who wants a half-bottle option has one. They are light, portable, chill down fast and make wine drinking more accessible,” she says. The most popular wine in cans according to Markert? First, sparkling rosé, whites like pinot gris and sauvignon blanc, then pinot noir.

Leave the cork. Take the can.

Paso Robles as the New Napa

California has the highest number of federally recognized wine-producing regions in the U.S., with 139 American Viticultural Areas. While 46 of California’s 58 counties produce wine, Napa is still considered the state’s wine mecca, although newcomers are muscling in. Chief among them is Paso Robles, situated midway between L.A. and San Francisco. The small city, whose wines are huge in Arroyoland, isn’t new to the wine game; small vineyards date back as far as the 1880s and large-scale vineyards were planted in the 1920s. Currently 63 varietals are in the ground, planted by about 250 wineries; the main focus is on cabernet sauvignon and Rhône wines, like grenache and mourvèdre. “This is a localization trend primarily driven by millennials who want to support local wineries, want to know the history and legacy of the winery, want to know who is making it and what their values are,” says Merkert. Christopher Taranto, a Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance spokesman, says Paso wines offer good value-to-quality ratio, offering highly rated vintages for less than you would pay for those from other better-known regions.

“Paso wine country is still seen as a discovery, which is the paradigm we as wine lovers live in,” Taranto says. “We love discovering something new, then sharing it with family and friends.”

Beyond that, Paso Robles has something millennials want that other wine regions don’t necessarily have — winemakers their own age. You don’t find as many young start-ups in Napa or Sonoma, or even in the less-renowned AVAs Monterey and Santa Barbara. “Paso is exploding with young, talented winemakers who don’t have a lot of money but they do have a passion for wine,” says Peachy Canyon Winery owner Doug Beckett. “The dynamics have changed so much in the last 40 years. It’s in the hands of the younger generation now.”

Drone Delivery

Want your albariño by air? Try a drone delivery.

The very first drones were a byproduct of wartime, and the original UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were large pilotless planes operated by remote control. These days drones are ubiquitous. Will a drone be able to deliver wine to your door? Yes. Will that be widespread in 2019? Probably
not. Amazon Prime Air has already been testing wine delivery by drone. The Pucari Winery tested drone delivery in 2016 in its home country, the Republic of Moldova. Other companies that have looked into drones include Über, Chipotle, Oscar Meyer, Domino’s Pizza and Southern Comfort.

None of these experiments has materialized as completely viable…yet. “Drone delivery, while seemingly amazing, has a lot of hurdles to overcome before becoming mainstream,” says wine-industry analyst Paul Mabray, CEO of Emetry, whose innovations include using digital data to map consumer behaviors for wine companies. “Regulatory challenges aside, there are still social and economic consequences (predicted and unforeseen) that will inhibit mass usage of what is currently a novelty,” says Mabray. “It sounds great in theory,” he tells Arroyo but adds that pressing issues remain, such as ensuring adult signatures, temperature control, breakage and weight challenges (drones are not built to carry more than 40 pounds). “None are insurmountable, but all add friction to this being a primary delivery category.”

But stay tuned. The day will come when a drone will deliver dolcetto to your door.